The newly emerging face of terrorism in Egypt
Cairo - When a little-known group called Hasm (Arabic for “decisiveness”) claimed responsibility for the killing of six Egyptian policemen with a bomb outside a Cairo mosque, it highlighted the complex battle authorities face fighting the terrorism threat posed by numerous emerging groups.
In addition to that December bombing, Hasm claimed responsibility for killing three policemen and had attempted to kill several important figures, including Ali Gomaa, Egypt’s former grand mufti. Gomaa is an outspoken critic of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Before Hasm surfaced, six other groups had emerged, targeting policemen, army personnel, judges and supporters of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
One of the groups, Lewa al-Thawra (Arabic for “Revolution’s Flag”), said it was responsible for the assassination of army Lieutenant-General Adel Rajaaie in October outside his eastern Cairo home. Rajaaie had overseen the demolition of a network of smuggling tunnels between Egypt’s Sinai peninsula and the Palestinian Gaza Strip.
“The impression you get after analysing the discourse, the operations and the targets of all these groups is that they are about the same thing, even as they have different names,” said security expert Khaled Okasha.
Agnad Masr (Egypt’s Soldiers), al-Maglis al-Thawri (Revolutionary Council) and Kataeb Helwan (Helwan Brigades) also have carried out operations against police and army personnel.
Security experts view these new groups, apart from the Islamic State (ISIS) in Sinai, as the most serious security threats facing Sisi’s government.
“One reason these groups are dangerous is that they are able to infiltrate into Cairo and hit at the heart of Egypt’s security establishment, which should be protecting the public against them,” said Nabil Naeem, a former jihadist. “The impression they want to give everybody is that the security establishment itself is not immune from their attacks.”
As ISIS does, the groups usually issue online statements mentioning details of operations they have just performed and aliases of the people who carried them out while vowing to maintain their war against Sisi, his supporters, police and the army.
Sameh Eid, a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood, said junior Brotherhood enthusiasts formed the groups to take revenge on Sisi, his security establishment and his backers soon after Muhammad Morsi’s overthrow as president in 2013. Morsi was affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood.
“All the operatives of these groups are Brotherhood members,” Eid said. “They adopt different names only to give the impression that they are many and to distract the attention of security agencies.”
The Brotherhood usually denies links to the groups, saying its opposition to Sisi is peaceful.
Eid claimed, however, the Brotherhood was in full control, giving the groups money to buy arms and explosives and masterminding their operations.
Islamist analyst Kamal Habib disagreed, saying that, while most of the members of these militant groups have been part of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist organisation cannot be in control or blamed for their actions.
“How can an organisation almost totally devastated be in full control of all these different groups?” Habib asked. “Some political forces are feeling that the way to peaceful change is blocked, which is why they are resorting to violence. You should not exclude this as you analyse the current situation.”